Marlborough College has a profound and rich literary heritage. Significant Old Marlburian writers include Siegfried Sassoon, Charles Hamilton Sorley, John Betjeman, Louis MacNeice and Bruce Chatwin. More recently, children’s authors Cressida Cowell and Lauren Child have added their names to the legacy. The English Department is located in the magnificent and inspiring North Block, adjacent to the Memorial Library with its textual riches and intellectual ambience. We are able to make use of the College’s extraordinary Rare Books collection, with its many original and early copies of canonical texts. It is a superb environment within which to explore literature and academia.
Through studying English, pupils are introduced to great literature from all ages and eras. We encourage creative writing and provide extensive opportunities for young writers to discover and develop their own voices and styles. English beaks have a range of passions and expertise within English Literature, English Language and Creative Writing, which we share with our pupils enthusiastically. We want the young people in our care to read with ambition and sophistication and to critique texts through thoughtful and intricate analysis.
Writing is an integral part of Form for the Shell, the Remove starts with poetry and short story-writing competitions for the whole year group and writing then remains part of the English course through to GCSE and beyond. There are extensive opportunities for budding writers to develop their craft throughout their time at the College.
English studies are a vital part of Form; reading in preparation for this begins before pupils arrive into the Shell. There are regular assessments of literacy as well as exposure to culturally significant and sophisticated writing. This is continued throughout the Remove with regular reading lessons and creative writing assessments. We aim to cultivate creativity and skill in their writing, and ambition and rigour in their reading. This is embellished by opportunities to write and perform in our Poetry Festival and Short Story Competition.
Throughout the first two terms, pupils are introduced to a range of literature, including pre-1900 texts. Analytical skills for both English Literature and English Language are developed. During the Lent Term pupils undertake oral presentations which are a requisite part of English Language GCSEs. In the Summer Term, the focus switches to the GCSE syllabuses including a first reading of drama set texts.
The Hundred follow GCSE courses in English Literature (CIE IGCSE) and English Language (OCR J351). The Literature course requires reading and analysis of prose, poetry and drama texts, which reflect the international nature of the IGCSE. The Language course combines analysis of fiction and non-fiction texts with creative and responsive writing.
English in the Sixth Form begins with some carefully selected holiday reading aimed at introducing pupils to the more sophisticated and diverse texts that they will encounter. The Marlborough Town Literature Festival (LitFest) in October provides an opportunity to engage with contemporary authors. During the Michaelmas Term, pupils experience an introduction to literature which includes studying a canonical novel and the Lower Sixth Poetry Project in which pupils create their own portfolios of poetry with accompanying commentaries. We begin set text work for the Eduqas A level in the Lent Term with a first reading of their Shakespeare set text, as well as the comparative study of two modern poets.
In the Upper Sixth pupils study two plays in comparison as well as a pre-1900 poet such as John Donne or Geoffrey Chaucer. There is a coursework component, the Prose Study, which involves comparing two novels; one pre-2000 and one post-2000. This allows pupils to engage with a diverse selection of texts and authors, providing the opportunity for them to follow their own direction and passions.
The English Department offers a comprehensive programme of trips, readings, talks and workshops. The year begins with our involvement in Marlborough Town’s LitFest and the poet-in-residence’s week-long tenure at the College. Throughout the year we have visiting poets and writers who come for readings and talks as well as running workshops with our pupils. Whenever possible we take groups to the theatre to see productions, especially if they are relevant to their set text study. In the Summer Term, we take the Lower Sixth to the RSC in Stratford or The Globe in London to see Shakespeare in performance and to take part in acting workshops. We offer a creative writing trip to Pembrokeshire in the Summer Term, and the Upper Sixth have the chance to join a study trip to Dublin in the Michaelmas half-term.
Marlborough has long championed the development of Creative Writing as a discrete subject in the Upper School. We have helped to develop a Creative Writing course leading to a formal qualification, the Apprentice in Fine Arts, which already has UCAS recognition. The best writing from all year groups finds its way into Piccalilli, the Department’s professionally produced magazine of creative writing and artwork, which is edited and designed by a pupil committee.
There are a number of Department societies which encourage a wider experience of literature and creative writing, such as Poetry Society, Shakespeare Society, C20th Drama and Film Studies. The Poetry Society was hailed by recent Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy as ‘the most vibrant community for writers in a school that I have encountered’.